Lance Armstrong’s Comeback

Lance Armstrong’s Comeback
There is almost one week in the books for the 2009 Tour de France and what a week it has been. Normally the first week is all about the flat stages and sprint finishes with the normal winners, but this year it is all mixed up and for the better. With the comeback of Lance Armstrong, so has the attention to the Tour de France here in the United States. The past few years, it doesn’t even rate a blip in the local papers or nightly news, but this year people are talking about it again. Great to see for this amazing race and sport, but onto my sport and Tour de French Cuisine and a few things I have been making this week. Stage #1 started in the 2nd smallest country in the world, Monaco, and what an amazing start it was. Starting on the beginning of the Monaco Grand Prix route and then heading past some of Monaco’s greatest landmarks and then onto some very tight corners. Monaco made for a natural amphitheater and was a perfect place to start. Now for the good stuff, the food, because Monaco is so close to France and Italy there is a huge influence from Provence and especially Nice and Italian influence can be tasted in the specialties of Monaco.  For the first stage I wanted to start out with a bang and made a few of Monaco’s favorite dishes. To start with I made “Oignons À La Monégasque” from the Anne Willan’s book “French Regional Cooking” a fantastic book and my go to book on French regional cooking. The onions were made into a sweet and sour salad with raisins, honestly I thought the raisins might be a little strange but as onions, water, wine vinegar, sugar, tomato paste and bouquet garni slowly cooked for almost an hour the smell was fantastic and the taste was out of this world. Barbagiuans are another thing you will find in Monaco, they are a crisp baked or fried pastry treat filled with savory flavors like Swiss chard, leeks, ricotta, garlic or herbs. And usually served as an appetizer. I searched high and low for this recipe and then altered the one I found to have more of an Monégasque flavors. The dough did not hold up and I think the humid 95 degree day didn’t help so I used rice paper wrappers as a last minute fix and they actually worked out great. Stage #2 leaves Monaco and heads into the Provence region of France to Brignoles before passing through Nice, Grasse and Draguignan. One of the most popular items in Nice and something that should not be missed is Socca. Socca is a thin crepe made from Chickpea flower and olive oil and baked on large thin and flat round pan and sometimes cooked over an open flame. You can find Socca being sold on the streets of the Vieux Nice and it is one of the most beloved things of Nice. At one point the city felt that the Socca stands cluttered the streets and banned the carts, but with public outcry they were allowed to sell them again. Like a lot of things in France, going to the source is worth it, for nobody makes Socca better then the people of Nice. Enjoy it hot with some sea salt and cracked pepper. I took a stab at making Socca with the help of David Lebovitz and his new book “A Sweet Life in Paris” They turned out great and tasted wonderful. Light and crispy and I added the salt and pepper and a little chopped fresh rosemary. Another thing I was very excited to make and find at my local farmers market was Squash Blossoms. Squash blossoms can be found all over in Provence but the blossoms give a special nod to Grasse as the home of perfume and all of those lovely flowers. I did some research and decided to make a filling of typical Provencal flavors: goat cheese, fresh herbs de Provence mixture and then breading it with flour and a little cornmeal to add some crunch and then fried it very quickly. A finally very traditional dish of the region is Stocafi, a fish stew made with salt cured cod. Salt cod is not the easiest thing to located, but finally found at a local supermarket. I have looked for an authentic recipe for months and all I could find is “salt cod cooked in a tomato broth with small vegetables” I could take it from there but wanted it to be more accurate. I did locate a version finally and that is what I used. With green peppers, tomatoes, nicoise olives and a tiny bite of jalapenos the flavors were very fresh and the nicoise olives added the perfect amount of saltiness to it. Served with a nice French baguette with some wonderful French butter…… C’est Magnifique! For more info and details on each stage, towns, recipes and pictures visit my website Good Things.
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Claudine Hemingway had a deep love of Paris instilled in her at an early age from her beloved grandparents. Following in their footsteps, she is happiest strolling the historic cobblestones soaking in the architecture, art and history. Highly sought after to plan your Parisian adventure that ventures off the beaten path and digs deeper into the historic and secret Paris. Contact her at [email protected] to plan your trip. You can follow her adventure and daily Paris history lesson on Instagram @claudinebleublonderouge